D&D to remove inherently evil races

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Shir'le E. Illios
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D&D to remove inherently evil races

Post by Shir'le E. Illios » Sat Jun 27, 2020 10:03 am

With all the stuff that's going on in the real world right now, companies everywhere seem to drive towards more inclusivity and diversity and get rid of potentially harmful depictions. As such Wizards of the Coast too have been looking at how some races are depicted. And it looks like they're changing it so that some of the races that have been traditionally depicted as inherently evil will be shown to be more diverse.
Throughout the 50-year history of D&D, some of the peoples in the game—orcs and drow being two of the prime examples—have been characterized as monstrous and evil, using descriptions that are painfully reminiscent of how real-world ethnic groups have been and continue to be denigrated. That’s just not right, and it’s not something we believe in. Despite our conscious efforts to the contrary, we have allowed some of those old descriptions to reappear in the game. We recognize that to live our values, we have to do an even better job in handling these issues. If we make mistakes, our priority is to make things right.

Here’s what we’re doing to improve:
  • We present orcs and drow in a new light in two of our most recent books, Eberron: Rising from the Last War and Explorer's Guide to Wildemount. In those books, orcs and drow are just as morally and culturally complex as other peoples. We will continue that approach in future books, portraying all the peoples of D&D in relatable ways and making it clear that they are as free as humans to decide who they are and what they do.
Drow are morally complex and can be something other than pure evil? Who would've thought!

Honestly, I'm not sure what this will mean exactly. I don't really expect Lolthian society to change that much, but perhaps they'll show more drow living in that society who are suffering under the oppression of the ruling elite or such. Either way, this does feel like a victory and hopefully we'll see a more diverse range of morality in the drow.

Other things that they're changing is that they're addressing some harmful stereotypes and, perhaps most interestingly, they're looking at changing how racial bonuses work by giving players the option to change which bonuses players take. This too seems like a good thing to me. More variety is good.

Either way, you can read Wizards of the Coast's full message here.

Interesting times indeed.


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Shir'le
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-= Shir'le E. Illios =-
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Re: D&D to remove inherently evil races

Post by Irennan » Sat Jun 27, 2020 3:23 pm

I get where they're coming from--there was a huge discussion last month over Twitter and Reddit, pointing out how WotC's worldbuilding was full of harmful clichés. Long story short, WotC found themselves in a sticky situation, which they TOTALLY brought on themselves.

Eilistraee brings an awesome culture, and she *could* make the difference, but WotC has shat on her at every opportunity for more than a decade, even while bringing her back. At this point It's pretty irrelevant to say "not all are evil", when your only non-evil drow culture amounts to <1% of the whole (Eilistraee with her few thousands of followers as a lesser goddess), and when the rest are labeled as "unique, super special, super rare outcasts". It's also bad worldbuilding, quite frankly. Lolth's society falls apart as soon as you start looking into it, yet, with most of its people being utterly miserable, it went through 12k years with absolutely 0 significant changes. And after millennia of that misery, >90% of the drow are still "evil", because only an extremely narrow % has even thought of abandoning her in favor of literally anything else, or just simply lost faith, or became disilluded, or w/e. The early 2e portrayals, when Ed was involved (and Ed has only about 50% of drow under Lolth in his FR), tried to introduce more dissent, but the later sources surely don't.

Then there are WotC's choices when they transitioned 3e->4e (and the grossly smearing misportrayal of Eilistraee that came with it, which *intentionally*--yes, intentionally, their goal was to get people to dislike Eilistraee, according to Erik Scott de Bie--made even the "good" drow no longer good, but merely self-righteous in being violent, warlike, crass, uncompassionate, abusive, *extremely* misandrist, while calling themselves "good"), or that infamous article about drow mothers getting orgasms when their kids eat each other in the womb, and about newborns being possessed by homicidal instincts, or 5e being so friggin' passive aggressive in regards of Eilistraee, Vhaeraun, etc...

Even in 2e, they say "the light-skinned elves are the good guys and don't get cursed. Even though they genocided a whole nation of good Eilistraean dark elves, and exterminated A LOT of dark elves before with the Sundering. However, those pesky dark elves are bad because a group of them turned to dark deities, and must all get cursed by the good-guy, light-skinned god that makes their skin even darker to reflect their dark hearts" which is a VERY questionable narrative choice. Late 3e also added "oh, and don't forget that the dark skinned elves ALL have demon blood... except a handful, who now get their less dark skin (which they never had, because they were *born* drow) back, because they're good! The rest of the race, however, is irrelevant, because they're unwilling and to be cast down". Keeping shit like this in 2020 is inviting career suicide for a company that has tried to keep a woke facade like WotC (and yes, it's a facade, because there are A LOT of reports that paint WotC as plagued by racism, intolerance, and nepotism).

Seriously, the D&D treatment of the dark elves amounts to "the iconic dark skinned elves and the only matriarchy we highlight are all about masturbating to people being tortured, puppies being kicked, and kittens being eaten, under the pretense of survival of the fittest. They would be danger to everyone, but thankfully the light-skinned good guys kicked their butt and sent them underground." WotC dug their own hole with their idiotic and childish treatment of the drow over the years, and I'm glad it's blowing up in their faces. They have to ve thankful that most D&D people aren't even aware of how f***ed up the evolution of the drow narrative is, or they would be under even stronger pressure now.

Now, all of this wouldn't even be that hard to fix. An obvious first step could be giving Eilistraee RELEVANCE. Not <1%, which is retarded, but at very least Ed's numbers (22%). Eilistraee founded a whole culture, she's the patroness of what once was the greatest hub of arts, culture, and magic of Faerun. She's been by the drow side since forever. She fought by their side, even when they hurt her, she strove to empower them to find their own path and rediscover the beauty and joy they were denied. She also always strove to build a place for the drow in the world, in harmony with the other races. After friggin' millennia, it's utter stupidity to still claime "hurr, less than 1%, hurr"...

Another step would be painting the Lolthite commoners as mostly nutral, introducing dissent and disillusion towards Lolth, some resistance too (and I mean, commoners have been totally miserable for millennia, they are indeed just people who struggle to stay alive--even Gygax's version didn'thave the commoners as evi, IIRC). If they really NEED to keep the Lolthite society as dumb as it is, they can paint it as a fascist theocracy that crushes its people, so that plotlines about freeing the drow can beomce mainsteram, with the involvement of many factions, including Eilistraee ofc. They could un-retcon Vhaeraun and bring him back to be his actual self (rather than the new and improved 5e version of him as "lolth's swift and obedient bodyguard who made a vow of silence or whatever"--which was pure idiocy and 100% redundant with Selvetarm), and take Ed's new lore about his stance becoming more neutral and establish other settlements on the surface. Have Bregan d'Aerthe do something similar (I mean, they already are, but I mean something open to more than operatives), and more of that.

However, I fear they'll just have Drizzt&friends pull off some weird shenanigans and magically convince half of the drow to stop being evil, and to come create a new settlement on the surface (and maybe call it Drizztland). With 0 acknowledgement of the other drow cultures that have been working towards that goal for millennia, that have been there for 30 years, like RAS always does. Because in the end, the shitty treatment of the drow was birthed by the extreme obsession over Drizzt that ran rampant in WotC back in late 3e (especially with people like Athans, the worst kind of fanboys), which gave us the shitty depiction of Eilistraee in WotSQ 4-6 and LP (all books that now WotC loves to pretend never existed).

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Re: D&D to remove inherently evil races

Post by Irennan » Sat Jun 27, 2020 4:19 pm

Actually, they might even rework stuff. The drow/elven history lays the basis for a more nuanced approach. The Crown Wars are not black vs white, they're pretty much dark grey vs dark grey. Instead of being the "eeeeevil guys", the drow could have simply been separated from the elves due to the Crown Wars, which saw heinous crimes committed against the drow (Eilistraee's whole nation was nuked, for example), which creates a scenario in which no side is actually right or wrong, just 2 people wounded by a bloody chains of wars. So, Lolth, her 2 kids, and the drow could have walked their own way due to the conflict, developed as their own nation (still in conflict with the elves, due to what happened), but over the millennia they could have managed to get some presence on the surface, deal with other races, etc... (Eilistraee&Vhaeraun could be on the forefront for this). Some younger drow and elves might want to reconcile and leave the past behind, while others might harbor old grudges; a deity like Eilistraee could work to reconcile the two people (and her mom and dad), etc...

Even yet,Lolth could be made into a character and society that makes sense, while still keeping the positive points about her. She can be a deity of ambition, about turning challenges and struggles into strength, about determining one's own future, preserving one's own independence etc... (which would preserve the competition-focused society). Araushnee could have had an interesting development, had they tried to focus on "seizing one's own destiny" and her feeling like a trophy wife, rather than "hurr durr, eeeeevil". This would also make Eilistraee a nice foil, with her effort to lure the drow on a "journey" to see what life can be and embrace (and nurture) the beauty in the world (rather than being blinded and missing on the joy of life due to hyperfocus on "success"), but also a good ally in that she too strives to empower the drow to choose their path. This version of Lolth would also go well with Vhaeraun's own efforts to restore the golden age of the drow. Eilistraee could still play the part of the nurturing mom, who might have still refused Corellon's offer to stay with the Seldarine, and taken the curse just to be with her people, etc...

And yes, that would require some retconning. At this point, WotC has already made so many retcons I don't think we have anything to lose. We might as well welcome some retcons that bring better quality worldbuilding.

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Re: D&D to remove inherently evil races

Post by Leema Har'gachi » Sun Jun 28, 2020 9:12 am

I wonder what they meant in the article when they said they were looking for freelance writers, I doubt they are looking for additional game designers.
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Re: D&D to remove inherently evil races

Post by Irennan » Sun Jun 28, 2020 4:06 pm

It's probably for their adventures. They've repeatedly stated they're not interested in novels.

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Re: D&D to remove inherently evil races

Post by Bhaern Quel » Sun Jun 28, 2020 11:10 pm

Leema Har'gachi wrote:
Sun Jun 28, 2020 9:12 am
I wonder what they meant in the article when they said they were looking for freelance writers, I doubt they are looking for additional game designers.
Well it is hard to know what they seek, however their magazine can use articles, there is also the DM's Guild that free lances can publish on. Of course if new talent really strikes a cord with them they might even get a novel, however as Irennan guess is, it is not likely is that big a gig that they are looking for.

They are more likely looking for new talent that can be paid less for word count or royalties.

The last time there was a contest for new setting a professional was the one selected, not someone new.

Submissions however became property of WotC of a few others. Rights forfeit as I recall.

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